By Robert Bradford
North Jefferson News
The futility is over, and what a way to end a losing streak.
After three weeks on the road, Hayden stayed home and held on for a one-point lead over Center Point, the first victory for the Wildcats of the season.
Starting quarterback Corey Ward did double duty, intercepting an Eagle pass in the end zone to kill Center Point's first scoring threat late in the first quarter after the teams had swapped punts.
The Eagles got on the scoreboard when quarterback Kellian Knight hooked up with wide receiver Sherman Starks for a 35 yard strike. The extra point put Center Point up 7-0 with exactly 10 minutes to go in the first half.
The Wildcats showed some offensive spark on their next drive, but were stopped at the Eagle 25, then Hayden forced an Eagle punt and had the ball at the 44 yard line. Ward finished off the drive by hitting Luke Wall for five yards and a score. The Cats’ pass failed on the two-point conversion attempt, but Hayden had cut the lead to 7-6 with two and a half minutes left in the first half.
Hayden was unable to muster any offense on their first possession of the second half. After a big punt by Ward, the Eagles were backed up to their 7. Center Point took a little under six minutes to drive the length of the field for the score, as Knight threw a touchdown pass to Terrance Bunch for 11 yards. The Eagles attempted a pass on the two-point conversion, which failed, but they had a 13-6 lead with three minutes remaining in the third quarter.
Neither team would threaten to score again until late in the game.
Center Point was faced with a fourth and four at the Hayden 39-yard line, and the Cats defense forced a turnover on downs and had good field position with 4:30 to go in the game. On the first play, running back Parker Sims broke loose up the middle for 61 yards and the touchdown. Dylan Putnam's extra point tied the game at 13 with 4:18 to go.
The Cats defense again forced a punt, and found themselves in good field position at the 42 with 3:02 on the clock. Gayden ran the ball and took the clock down, but was faced with fourth down and four at the Eagle 31.
Ward then found Wall for the scoring pass with 14 ticks left on the clock.
Hayden attempted a squib kick, but return man Virgil Studdard fumbled the kickoff. He then picked the ball up and raced 95 yards down the sideline for the score as time expired.
With no time left and a 20-19 Hayden lead, Center Point decided to go for the two-point conversion and the win. After each team used their remaining time outs, the Eagles ran a pass play that was broken up in the end zone to secure the win.
Hayden's Sims ran for 113 yards on 13 attempts and one touchdown. The Cats defense held Center Point to only 64 yards rushing on 32 attempts.
Wall had seven catches for 77 yards and two touchdowns.
The win improves Hayden to 1-7, and 1-5 in region play while Center Point drops to 4-4, 3-3 in region play. The Wildcats are back on the road next week as they travel to Curry to take on the Yellow Jackets.
Meanwhile, the Eagles host Mortimer Jordan in a must-win game; a victory over the Blue Devils would give them the third seed with a 4-3 region record and the tiebreaker with Jordan. A loss would put Jordan at 5-2 in the region with the third seed.